Sink or swim: How to successfully navigate the personalisocean waters

12 Sep, 2017
6 Min Read Dan Ward

Sink or swim: How to successfully navigate the personalisocean waters


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We’ve all heard stories of ship crews who left the safety of the harbour to seek opportunities in distant lands. Armed with rudimentary maps and tools, many were unsure what their final destination would be. They crossed their fingers and hoped for a positive outcome. In sales and marketing, navigating the deep waters of personalisation can feel like a similar experience, though with arguably lower stakes. As personalisation technologies become more advanced, it’s easy to end up swimming against the current. Exhausted, marketers have little to show for their furious paddling, and no idea of where they might end up.

At the recent Sitecore Trendspot 2017 event attended by RXP, personalisation emerged as one of the key discussion topics. Avanade Studio Lead Jane Headon and Sitecore’s Global Leader of Partnerships and Alliances, Darren Guarnaccia, shared a new take on the complexity of personalisation. They even coined a new term: personalisocean.

In this post, we’ll explore the main takeaways from the presentation and their implications for marketers.

Personalisation takes centre stage

With the age of the customer upon us, it is difficult to overstate the importance of delivering personalised, engaging customer experiences. (For more about why personalisation is essential, read our earlier post, What is customer intimacy, and why should marketers care?) Consumers – especially millennials – put a premium on receiving a highly personalised service. They expect end-to-end customer experiences that are directly and deliberately pitched to their individual needs. It is no surprise then that companies delivering effective personalised digital experiences have a significant competitive advantage.

“Youniverse: We all want to feel unique and special, and be treated as such.” – Avanade, 2017.

According to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report, 50 percent of consumers would switch brands if a company failed to anticipate their needs. And yet, the vast majority of brands – almost 90 percent – are failing to deliver effective personalised experiences. The most common obstacles reported by these brands include:

  • A lack of insight into customer preferences
  • A lack of necessary technology to succeed

Why is personalisation so hard?

Many companies are still starting out with personalisation strategies. They limit themselves to rules-based approaches in which customers are directed to content based on their online behaviour. These strategies apply ‘If this… Then that…’ logic to provide a personalised experience for high level groups of customers. These strategies rarely fulfil the individual needs of customers and fail to deliver measurable ROI. At the next level of sophistication, companies provide implicit personalisation. Customers receive targeted messages based on past behaviour, such as transaction history. These companies have rich customer data available, but lack the analytical tools to take advantage of it.

The most successful digital strategies use omnichannel personalisation. This is where customers receive personalised experiences that are:

  • Contextualised
  • Consistent across multiple marketing channels (i.e. in-store, online or via a mobile application)
  • Updated in real-time

These strategies are most likely to nurture an intimate customer experience and drive customer loyalty over the longer term.

What is personalisocean?

Getting personalisation right is challenging, even for digital leaders. Personalisocean speaks to one of the most complex strategic challenges in digital marketing: navigating the vast and sometimes dangerous sea of options companies face when pursuing one to one customer relationships. With enormous volumes of data and a wide range of customer relationship management and data analytics tools at their disposal, choosing an effective personalisation strategy is no easy task. So, how do you navigate the challenges of personalisocean? Finding your way through the personalisocean requires a perfect storm of:

1. Real-time rich data that provides deep insight into customer behaviour

Effective personalisation demands rich data from multiple channels. For successful personalisation, companies must capture, contextualise and communicate data from across the business in real-time.

2. Human-centred design that puts behavioural insights first

Human-centred design considers the human perspective in all aspects of the customer experience. What do customers want? How do they prefer to interact with brands? What behaviours indicate that a brand’s personalisation techniques are effective? Companies that can answer these questions with ease are well placed to deliver effective personalised experiences.

3. Systems of intelligence that incorporate machine learning and predictive models

The future of personalisation will harness emerging technologies including:

  • Chatbots
  • Augmented and virtual reality experiences
  • Conversational nterfaces
  • AI-produced videos and articles

Over time, these technologies will understand and predict customer needs. They will deliver highly personalised experiences as a result.

As yesteryear’s intrepid sea adventurers discovered, there is no one right way to explore unchartered waters. But being aware of the opportunities, pitfalls and trends ahead – especially when it comes to navigating the personalisocean – can help ensure you reach your destination safely and quickly.

To find out more about harnessing data to build personalised and effective customer relationships, download our white paper, Digital Trends 2017: Harnessing data to build customer intimacy.

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